Trea Turner’s importance to the Nationals’ chances this postseason is a given at this point. The Dodgers know it. Everybody knows it.
Which means the Nationals’ chances of winning Game 2 of the best-of-five National League Division Series this afternoon go up considerably if Turner is able to produce atop the lineup and have the kind of impact he did throughout the season’s second half.
Turner’s postseason debut Friday night was a mixed bag. He drove in one of the Nats’ three runs with a fourth-inning sacrifice fly, and he drew a sixth-inning walk. But he struck out in his three other plate appearances, all of them leading off innings.
Were those first-time October jitters, or was there something more going on?
“Actually, I wasn’t as nervous as I thought I’d be,” the rookie center fielder said. “I wasn’t really at all, just trying to do too much at the plate. But I felt good. As the game went on, I think I had better at-bats.”
In his brief time in the big leagues, Turner has shown an ability both to be a dynamic table-setter and a run producer. But he only reached base once in Game 1, and that came on the two-out walk, with no great opportunity to then use his speed.
This was a significant problem during the game. Of the Nationals’ 10 at-bats with runners in scoring position, seven were taken by their No. 7, 8 or 9 hitters. None was taken by their No. 1, 2 or 3 hitters.
The Nationals know they need more table-setting from Turner today, giving Bryce Harper, Jayson Werth and Daniel Murphy more opportunities to drive in runs. So do the Dodgers, who realize how important is was for them to keep Turner off base in Game 1.
“You just see the strength; he’s a lot stronger than I remember him,” said manager Dave Roberts, who was a coach with the Padres when Turner was drafted in 2014. “Sky’s the limit. I think for us going into this series, keeping him off the bases was, you know, probably top of the list.”
Nationals manager Dusty Baker hopes even one postseason game under his belt will help Turner today.
“Every game that you play in the playoffs, it helps you towards gaining experience and gaining some knowledge, gaining some knowledge and also some relaxation,” Baker said. “I mean, it’s hard your first playoff. The whole world’s eyes are on you. A lot of these guys are used to playing in front of TV and the world.”